Saturday 27th May
There isn’t quite an expression like it in English. It means, of course, the joy of being alive. But more than that it is the essence of life itself. The complete and utter abandonment of self to the excitement, the pleasure in purely being alive, in existence itself. But there is also a spiritedness, a carefree, worry-free acceptance that life is good. We see it in children, absorbed in a game, running around and shrieking with pleasure, the pleasure of being with other children also enjoying this joie de vivre. You see it in dogs, when you come in the gate, there they are on the balcony, excited to see you, they jump with joy at the sound of your voice, they tug on the lead in their eagerness to go for a walk and smell the scents of other dogs. You see it in young lovers leaning in to kiss, eyes closing in anticipatory pleasure as hormones are a-popping in their brains, a languid arm raised to stroke a neck, a smile on parting, a look and abandonment as they slowly descend into another blissful kiss. You feel it listening to music, loud, or at a concert as the singer sings and you know the words and the whole audience is singing along in glorious unharmonious chorus.
But as life progresses, as we sit for hours at school, being tutored in the ways of the World, being pressure-cooked into passing exams. As you wearily wake every day to the alarm-bells persistent ringing, as you doggedly brush teeth, shave, and shower. As you trudge to work, strap-hanging on the tube, crushed like sardines. As the hours slowly drift by, the hands of the clock refusing to budge no matter how often you look at them. As almost all joie de vivre is knocked out of you by the materialistic world and the struggle for survival.
But there are still moments. Catching a few minutes in the sun outside the Café de Paris, a glass of Hoegarten, chilled and sans citron in your hand. As you sink beneath the surface of the water at Lac Lougratte and revel in the freedom of an open space of water, maybe our natural habitat, floating head back as the sun dapples down and the waves plash gently on your face. Ah, Joie de vivre. Or when you get that phone call and you hear that your ninth grandchild has just been born – your heart opens up and there is no other expression for how you are feeling than ‘joie de vivre’.